On Aug. 13, the Fortnite mobile community rode through a roller coaster of emotions. As part of the Mega Drop event, V-Buck prices dropped by 20 percent on Apple and Android devices.
To do this, Epic Games gave mobile players two ways of making payments: one through the App Store, and the other directly through Epic. Apple and Google take 30 percent of all in-game sales, and bypassing this gave Epic the chance to significantly reduce prices.
What erupted from this was a fully fledged court battle between the tech giants. Apple and Google quickly removed the game from their respective stores for violating their guidelines regarding in-app payments. Epic immediately responded with a #FreeFortnite hashtag trend and filed lawsuits against both companies.
There was some relief for players on Android devices, however. Even though the game is not available in the Google Play Store, it can still be downloaded from the Epic store and updated with the latest content.
For Apple players, on the other hand, this isn’t possible. Only people who already had the game installed can continue playing it. Additionally, they won’t receive any upcoming updates to the game. Apple players are stuck on version 13.40 (Chapter Two, season three) until the legal dispute is settled. They can’t play the newly-released Chapter Two, season four as well.
The legal battle between Apple and Epic is showing no signs of slowing down and could possibly last for months. While all mobile players will be closely involved in the developments, those most affected by this turn of events are content creators who rely on the game for earning their livelihood.
Dot Esports spoke with some content creators regarding the impact Epic and Apple’s decisions will have on their careers.
Switching to other platforms
With Apple users not getting new content, Fortnite mobile viewership will obviously take a hit as a huge part of the community will stop engaging with the game. While this is a huge problem, there is an even bigger one that Fortnite mobile content creators have to face—and that is switching to other platforms.
Most Fortnite mobile content creators play on Apple devices. Sam “DuckyTheGamer” Hatch, who creates Fortnite mobile content and has over 900,000 YouTube subscribers along with over 300,000 Twitch followers, weighed in on why this is so.
“The latest iPad Pros, 2018 and 2020 models have been optimized to run 120 FPS [frames-per-second] on Fortnite mobile,” DuckyTheGamer said. “This is the only device in the world to get this sort of performance on Fortnite mobile. This is the main reason most content creators and top players play on iOS, because of the performance.”
For content creators like DuckyTheGamer, switching to other platforms will be necessary if they want to stay on the latest update and give their thousands of viewers new content. This isn’t as simple as getting an Android device, though.
DuckyTheGamer is a partner of smartphone manufacturer OnePlus. While these devices will continue to get Fortnite updates through the Epic store, it is difficult for an 11-inch iPad player to directly switch over to a device with a screen size of less than seven inches. DuckyTheGamer said that this huge decrease in screen size will limit his skill level in the game. The player can’t risk this, though, since his skillful Fortnite gameplay on a touchscreen device is why a lot of people tune into his content in the first place.
These concerns were also raised by Misfits Gaming’s Fortnite mobile player, Drew “Surfnboy” Snedikar, who has over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube.
“Mobile is very reliant on muscle memory,” Surfnboy said. “It’s really tough switching from a device running 120 FPS that you’ve been using for two years to move to a smaller device with all your buttons moved differently and [on a] lower FPS.”
Decrease in viewership
Fortunately for popular Fortnite mobile content creator GrantTheGoat, who boasts of over 1.7 million YouTube subscribers, he won’t have to go through the hassle of switching devices. The player already uses an Android device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. But for him and all other creators, another problem presents itself.
“Obviously there are going to be a lot of people that play on Apple and watch me,” GrantTheGoat said. “With them not being able to play, I feel like going down the road, with everything going on, there is going to be an audience drop because not a lot of people are going to be engaged [on] mobile [as] they won’t be able to play.”
There are no exact statistics publicly available regarding how much of Fortnite mobile’s player base is on Apple and Android respectively. Fortnite has been downloaded over 125 million times from the Apple App Store, according to a report by Sensor Tower from May 2020. In a new legal motion, Epic said that iOS is their biggest platform. Nearly a third of all registered users on Fortnite play on iOS.
While the legal battle between Epic and Apple could go on either side, one thing it has accomplished is turning eyes towards the game. All content creators are reaping the benefits of this with much better viewership these days. DuckyTheGamer felt that this “inflated viewership” is because a lot of people are intrigued to see his personal reaction to Epic’s decision and the direction the mobile community is heading towards.
This initial hype over the ban, however, will go away in a few weeks. With Apple players not getting new content, they will likely stop playing or switch over to new games and stop watching the Fortnite mobile creators. In a newly filed motion against Apple, Epic said that the game has seen over a 60 percent decrease in daily active users on iOS. With these many people not playing the game anymore, Fortnite mobile viewership could decline drastically over time.
Decrease in Earnings
Fortnite creators rely a lot on Epic’s “Support A Creator Program” for their earnings. Fortnite‘s new Chapter Two, season four released on Aug. 27 with a new battle pass. The launch day usually sees a lot of people buying the new battle pass while financially supporting their favorite creators.
DuckyTheGamer said that Apple players not being able to access the new season has had a huge impact on his earnings. While his viewership is the highest they’ve been in all of 2020, his earnings for the launch day were “the lowest in a long time.”
“I know [in the] long term this will hurt me as well as every other mobile creator out there,” the content creator added.
Epic’s lack of communication
The content creators also expressed disappointment regarding how drastically Epic took the decisions that ultimately led to Fortnite’s removal from the mobile application stores. They also felt left out regarding the lack of communication from Epic’s side.
“What Epic has decided to do has a direct impact on my livelihood and my income,” DuckyTheGamer said. “I am not the only Fortnite mobile content creator who makes a living off of the game, so the fact that none of us have been contacted from Epic about the future of the game or the current situation is very disappointing.”
Surfnboy and GrantTheGamer felt that Epic could have made them aware beforehand about the removal of Fortnite from the mobile app stores. Epic clearly knew for a while about what was going to happen, given the lawsuit and video they had ready to go out after Apple banned the game from its store. Surfnboy said that Epic could have given mobile content creators an NDA to tell them that their “whole world was about to come to flames.”
Matt “MobileMatt” Rutledge, the director of mobile gaming at Complexity Gaming, felt that this isn’t always necessary. “Epic Games is an award-winning company with almost three decades of experience, and I trust this decision was not taken lightly,” MobileMatt said. “Players and content creators are not always actively involved in the decision-making process of issues at this level, but I do empathize with the players and creators who are now looking for clarity.”
Nonetheless, the content creators will now have to adapt to the apparent situation as the lawsuit is heating up. A U.S. district judge ruled on Aug. 24 that Apple wouldn’t have to immediately add Fortnite back to the App Store, according to Bloomberg.
While Surfnboy said that he plans to continue making the same content, DuckyTheGamer and GrantTheGoat are already thinking of experimenting with new things.
DuckyTheGamer said that he will continue keeping his viewers updated on the situation between Epic and Apple/Google and will also branch out to other platforms of Fortnite, such as PC and controller. The content creator still hasn’t decided on what to do if the situation lasts for an extended period of time.
“In the long run, if Epic Games doesn’t resolve this within a few weeks, I really don’t know what I plan on doing,” DuckyTheGamer said. “I’m not going to stop producing content, and this has taught me that I need to diversify the content that I make because there is no guarantee that the platform or game that I play on will be there the next day.”
GrantTheGoat, on the other hand, is already planning to switch to a PC. The creator said that he actually started playing Fortnite on a keyboard and mouse and that he’s “not terrible” at it.
Even if the creator manages to efficiently make this switch between platforms, there’s no guarantee that his primarily mobile viewers will continue consuming his content. GrantTheGoat does hope to retain some of his viewership even after making the switch, though.
“I think some of the [Fortnite mobile] community is going to switch to other platforms,” GrantTheGoat said. “Obviously, a large number of them won’t be able to switch as they have only Apple devices. I don’t think they will completely drop the game but will [continue] to consume some of [my] content. But obviously, over time they will get less engaged.”
There is still hope for the Fortnite mobile community. Epic has filed a new motion asking the court to add the battle royale back to the App Store. The company highlighted the effects the removal has had on its player base. It would definitely be great for the content creators if the game could be added back to the App Store while the legal feud continues in the background. In the meantime, mobile content creators will have to find a way to continue to create content.